Many steps taken toward health reform, many more to go

In 1997, in his State of the State address, then-Gov. Mike Leavitt announced the problem of health care access had been solved.

“Four years ago, we agreed that health insurance should be accessible for every Utahn, and each year since then, we have taken carefully-planned steps to achieve that goal,” said Leavitt. “Our health care goals are in sight.”

More accurately, perhaps, just beyond sight. The history of health care reform in Utah is a process, as Leavitt continued, of  “[taking] another step toward making health care accessible for all Utahns.” There has been no shortage of steps, either.

Between 1987 and 2001, there were 9 committees set up to study the issue, according to a 2001 Deseret News article.

The names of those committees have been just as varied as the years. In 2001, there was the Access to Health Care and Coverage Task Force. In 1993, there was the Healthcare Policy Option Commission. And just last year, there was the Health Reform Task Force.

With so many steps, will we ever actually get there?

Governor Herbert’s Healthy Utah plan, a sort of middle-of-the-road effort between full Medicaid expansion on one hand, and doing nothing on the other hand, gets us pretty close. But it is still the sort of stepping that practically guarantees at least a few more committees with bureaucratic-sounding, health-oriented titles. Each of those committees, just as the Health Reform Task Force is likely to do at the end of this year’s legislative session, will somehow convince themselves they’ve solved the problem.

It’s been almost 20 years since Leavitt pronounced the problem solved. I hope it doesn’t take 20 more.

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